Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Mechanics' Institutes

This is Narre Warren North in 1895. The old store and the Mechanics' Institute is in the background and Raduchel's blacksmith shop on the right (click on photograph to enlarge it).
In the nineteenth century the term ‘mechanic’ meant artisan or working man. The Mechanics’ Institute movement began in 1800 when Dr George Birkbeck of the Andersonian Institute in Scotland gave a series of lectures to local mechanics. The lectures were free and popular. They led to the formation of the Edinburgh School of Arts (1821) and the London Mechanics’ Institute (1823). The movement spread quickly throughout the British Empire.The first Victorian Mechanics’ Institute was the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institute established in 1839 and renamed The Melbourne Athenaeum in 1873, which continues to operate in its original building in Collins Street. Over a thousand were built in Victoria and 562 remain today. The Berwick Mechanics' Institute and Free Library is one of only six which still operate as Lending Libraries.The Berwick Mechanics' Institute commenced in 1864. More information can be found on their website at www.berwickmilibrary.org.au  Richard Myers has written a book called Berwick Mechanics' Institute & Free Library.

Towns in Casey Cardinia in which a Mechanics' Institute was established are Bayles, Beaconsfield, Bunyip, Clematis, Clyde, Clyde North, Cockatoo, Cora Lynn, Emerald, Garfield, Lang Lang, Koo-Wee-Rup, Koo-Wee-Rup East, Nar Nar Goon, Nar Nar Goon North, Narre Warren, Narre Warren North, Officer, Pakenham, Pakenham Upper, Tooradin and Tynong.

For more information on Mechanics' Institutes you can borrow If the walls could speak : a social history of the Mechanics' Institutes of Victoria by Pam Baragwanath from the Cranbourne Library, or visit the Mechanics' Institutes of Victoria website at http://home.vicnet.net.au/~mivic/

The photograph above is of the Berwick Mechanics' Institute, taken before the 1982 renovations.These renovations extended the building width ways and also added a mezzanine level. This extension was made possible by a $50,000 donation by Lady Casey and City of Berwick funding.

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